Saturday, April 11, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 46: The Amen

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' ] (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

Our topic today is Amen, and I hope it will prove as surprising and inspiring for you as it has for me. The word "amen" was transliterated directly from Hebrew to Greek and has been transliterated into every subsequent language. As a result, it is a kind of "universal word", the same in every language. It is closely related to the Hebrew word "aman", meaning faithful or sure. 

When amen is used at the end of a statement, it means "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled." The BLB explains, "It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen (so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled) and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own."

The "amen" spoken at the end of my prayer is a way of saying that I believe God is faithful and that I believe He will do what I have asked of Him. When I ask God for my daily bread, my "amen" says that I believe God can and will provide that daily bread. When I ask that God will deliver me from the schemes of the evil one and help me avoid temptation, my "amen" tells Him that I believe He will be faithful to do that very thing.

When I pray with my friend, my "amen" at the end of her prayer tells God that I agree with her, that I am saying "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled." It's a word that communicates my agreement. "Yes! Lord, I agree with everything that's been said and I believe you can do it all!"

We sang a song in choir recently that plays in my head quite a bit. (You do know what that's like, right?) It's "Because He Lives" by Ed Cash, Bill Gaither, Chris Tomlin, Jason Ingram, Carson Daniel, Gloria Gaither, and Matt Maher. It has lots of "amen's" but it was only today that I understood the power in it. The song is a declaration of belief and the "amen's" are an affirmation of my faith in that declaration. I've included part of the lyrics here.

I believe in the son
I believe in the risen one
I believe I overcome
By the power of his blood

Amen, Amen
I'm alive, I'm alive, Because He lives.
Amen, Amen

Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

I was dead in the grave
I was covered in sin and shame
I heard mercy call my name
He rolled the stone away

Amen, Amen
I'm alive, I'm alive, Because He lives.
Amen, Amen

Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands

Amen, Amen
I'm alive, I'm alive, Because He lives.
Amen, Amen

Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

It's a beautiful song, with wonderful lyrics. Read those words through again and use them today as a declaration of faith, then join with me in adding an "amen". So it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled. I'm declaring it because I believe it. That's what our amen means!

(If you want to hear this song, the link to our Easter service is here: The song begins at 57:47. Hope you enjoy!)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 45: Thine is the glory

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' ] (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

Just before I hit the "publish" button yesterday, I realized that what I had written was not at all what I had intended to write. Today, I'll try to correct that.

The final phrase found in the Model Prayer of Jesus (Matthew 6) says, "For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever." The word translated as "glory" is doxa
and indicates "the kingly majesty which belongs to God as supreme ruler". Doxa is sometimes used to indicate His Shekinah glory.

When I pray, asking for provision, forgiveness, and deliverance, I am to pray with the understanding that God does not answer my prayers with the objective of demonstrating what a fine believer I am. He answers my prayers in ways that conform to Who He is, in ways that demonstrate His attributes, and ways that reveal His glory to me and to those around me. The answers to my prayers are designed to reveal the truth that God is the supreme ruler of everything and all majesty belongs to Him. If I pay close attention to the way that God answers my prayers, I will find His majesty, His glory clearly revealed. 

What I'm about to write is astounding, even to me. When I pray in ways that are consistent with the will of God, for things that God longs to do, His response to my prayers can bring me a bit closer to His Shekinah glory. 

Selah. Pause and consider.

That breathtaking eminence is reason enough to pray with an humble, seeking heart. As I pray, I am praying for (or because) all power and all glory belong to God. He is able to respond to my needs, my prayers because He has all the power needed and because of His great majesty.  

It is almost too much to grasp that my prayers can help to reveal the glory of God to a lost and dying world, but it's true. There is a caveat, of course. When I pray "amiss" for selfish things that glorify only myself, it does not reveal the glory of God. When I am willing to pray for God's will in my life, however, He can be glorified in ways that make His goodness evident for all those around us to see.

Imagine for a moment all the ways God might move if you and I were intentional about asking for things that would glorify Him, instead of glorifying ourselves and those we love. What a beautiful outpouring of His power and glory we would see! As we approach our Lord in prayer today, let's pray for our needs to be met in ways that glorify our Father in Heaven, that all the world can see how good and kind He is to sinners such as you and me.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 44: Glorifying God

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' ] (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

Last night at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting, our interim pastor, Bobby Douglas, talked about glorifying God. He gave the illustration of a sunrise. Before we see the sun, he explained, we see the golden glow that lets us know the sun is coming. If we were seeing the sun for the first time, we might say, "I thought it would be something like that from the glow that came before it." When we glorify God, we live in such a way that people get a glimpse of what God is like by watching us. 

Pastor Douglas is absolutely correct. God did not call us to convict people of their sin, nor did He call us to be "fruit inspectors" (as I have heard numerous people claim). Our job is to be salt and light, to love, to be unified, to obey. Conviction of sin is God's job. Judging sin is God's job. We are to live in such a way that we create a lovely glow that causes people to want to see more. 

When Jesus walked this earth, he spent time with people who did not live the way the "church people" lived. He ate with them, attended parties with them, loved them. He sat down at the well and talked to the most notorious woman in town. Do you remember what happened when Jesus hung out with sinners? Mary Magadalene showed us how to love to the extreme. Matthew documented the life of Christ and brought his friends to Jesus. Zaccheus showed us the generosity that springs from love and a life that has been redeemed. These "sinners" became the very ones that showed "the church" what loving God was supposed to look like. They became the golden glow that gave a glimpse of the Son.

This is what our lives are supposed to do, as well. We are to be so cleansed by the blood of Christ, so transformed by His Spirit, that we become that same golden glow that gives a glimpse of our Lord. Matthew explained it perfectly.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

In the Leanna paraphrase, "Live in such a way that your life is a light that shows everyone a picture of God and makes the most notorious sinner want to love Him,too." That's what someone did for me, and it made all the difference. 

Be the light that gives the world a glimpse of Jesus and His love.

Teach us to pray, part 43: The Power

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' ] (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

An interesting thing happened midway through the plagues in Egypt. The Egyptians had just watched in horror as all their livestock died in a terrible hailstorm (plague 5). The loss of their livestock had been quickly followed by boils on all the people and all the other animals. (plague 6) It was painful and horrible. No one was spared and the Egyptians were not happy. 

God spoke to Moses with an interesting message. Go back to Pharaoh and tell him that I said I'm about to send all my plagues on him. Say that, if I had just killed him, he'd be gone, but I have something else in mind. These next words are powerful and worth remembering.

"But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth."
Exodus 9:16 NASB

We know (from Exodus 2:22-24) that God had heard the cries of the children of Israel and was moving to deliver them. He could have zapped Pharaoh and zipped the children of Israel straight to the promised land. He could have spared the Egyptians all the plagues and spared the children of Israel the wilderness time. That would have worked well for delivering them from slavery, but His purposes would not have been accomplished. He allowed additional plagues to descend on Egypt in order to demonstrate His power to Pharaoh and the Egyptian people, but also to show His power to His own people. They had languished in slavery for years. They were miserable and thought God had forgotten them. When they watched the plagues that befell Egypt, they knew the power of God had moved on their behalf.

Sometimes, I forget about that power, especially when I am in the midst of a trial. I forget that the One who delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery can also deliver me. I forget that my difficult situation, about which I am storming the gates of heaven, might be an opportunity for God to teach me something about Himself. Not long ago, I had a need. I was praying up a storm, hoping and hoping that God would do what needed to be done. In fact, I had begun to think that I might need to help Him out a little bit, because it seemed as if He was moving too slow. Right on time, exactly when it was needed, He did exactly what needed to be done. Actually, He did more than what needed to be done. His timing and His power left me awestruck, utterly amazed by the Mighty God we serve.

When I pray, when I ask God to provide for me, forgive me, and deliver me, it is important that I remember that the One I have asked has the authority (Thine is the Kingdom) and the ability (Thine is the power) to do exactly what needs to be done. 

As we pray today, let us bring our needs for provision, our needs for forgiveness, our needs for protection to the only One who can meet those needs. When we pray, let us also acknowledge the One who has all the authority, all the ability, all the glory needed to accomplish everything we ask.

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 42: Whose Kingdom is it?

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' ] (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB

We've been studying the Model Prayer from Luke. Today, we are looking at the last phrase of the Model Prayer recorded by Matthew. Not all manuscripts include it, but the important truth it teaches is worth understanding.

"For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever." 

Jesus began His prayer with "Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed by Your name", which is an acknowledgement of God's position and importance (He is in heaven and His name is honored or hallowed). He ended that same prayer with another acknowledgement of God's position and authority. In a way, Jesus was acknowledging that everything belongs to our Father, who is the All Powerful, Omnipotent God and to whom all glory is given.

In a prayer that has asked God for provision, forgiveness, and deliverance, it is only right that I would stop to say, "This is what I'm asking for, Lord, but You are in charge and what You say goes." It is a form of submission to the will of God when I admit that He is the One who owns everything and rules everything, and that I do not. "You are the boss of my situation, Lord, and I bow to that authority." 

Specific prayers help me to know with certainty that God has answered my prayers.  Specific prayers make it easier, in a way, for me to see His hand at work, but I can't presume to know what is best in all situations. Often, all I know is what I want, not what God wants. It takes considerable faith for me to bring a situation to the Lord and say, "I don't know what is best here, but You do. I'm trusting You, Lord. Thy will be done." 

There are times, however, when I do know what God will want in a situation because it is clear from His Word. Sometimes, unfortunately, what He wants and what I want aren't quite the same. "For Yours is the kingdom" says that I accept what He wants, instead of what I want. I bow my will to His. 

This bowing to the will of God is exactly what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. That will was personally horrible for Jesus for a moment in time, but is glorious in eternity, and brought about the redemption of the world. When I look at that Cross, it seems too much to bear, too much to ask, even of Jesus. When I see the empty tomb, however, I see the wisdom in God's will. There are times when His will for us seems terrible, but on the other side of that terrible is something worth having. 

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, (2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB)

When I'm in the midst of "light affliction", the last thing I want is for it to continue. If I could only remember that "eternal weight of glory", perhaps I might not kick against the temporary affliction quite so hard. If I would remember that God is in charge and He is good, how much easier it would be! When I pray, "For Yours is the Kingdom", when I acknowledge that He is in charge and His plan is good, it makes it much easier to submit my will to His. 

How, then, should we pray? Let us pour our hearts out to God, with all our requests and desires, but, before we end our prayers, let us acknowledge Who is in charge, and leave the ultimate decision about our wants and needs to the One who cares most and knows best.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 41: Lead us not into temptation

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB) 

The word translated as "lead" is eispherĊ and means "lead into". McArthur cautions us against thinking that God tempts us to sin. "God does not tempt us (James 1:13), but He will subject us to trials that may expose us to Satan's assaults, as in the case of Job and Peter (Luke 22:31,32). This petition expressed the believer's desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether." (MBC p 1133)

Matthew Henry explained further. "That temptations to sin should be as much dreaded and deprecated by us as ruin by sin; and it should be as much our care and prayer to get the power of sin broken in us as to get the guilt of sin removed from us." 

The very thought of sin should be so heinous to me that I would desire to avoid it at all costs. Our Lord gave a wonderful example when He taught His disciples to pray in this way. What I am saying with the words, "lead me not into temptation" is, in essence, that Satan would not be allowed to assail me in such a way, tempt me so severely, that I fail to stand firm. 

The model prayer in Matthew includes the request "but deliver us from evil" and that is the point of requesting that God not to "lead me into temptation". When temptation comes, I am to ask God to deliver me from it. 

Temptation can be appealing, tantalizing, exciting, can't it? In a very foolish way, I have not always wanted to avoid all temptation. When the temptation is severe, it is much easier to yield, and then give the enemy credit for the attack. In the words of Flip Wilson, "The devil made me do it." God, of course, is not deceived. Satan may have attacked, but I am the one who yielded. 

If I could only see Sin the way God sees it, if I could understood the horrible price that was paid and keep it in the forefront of my mind, I would not be so quickly enticed. The only solution, then, is to do what Jesus told us to do. I, we, must pray that we will not be led into temptation so great that we cannot avoid it. I must be diligent to pray for my own deliverance from evil. I must want to avoid evil, sin, wrongdoing, wrong thinking, wrong speaking.

I must remember that it is the temptation to sin, and the yielding that follows, that ultimately brings me to the consequences of sin. The price of sin is the very thing I must avoid, and that begins with avoidance at the very start. 

Join me, then, as I earnestly pray, "Lead me not into temptation." If sin will take us further than we ever meant to go, cost us more than we ever meant to pay, and keep us longer than we ever meant to stay, and it will, then let us hold firm. Let us refuse that first step on the journey of destruction and count on our Lord to help us, because He says He will. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Day that Rocked the World

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 

The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10 NIV)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Easter story looks entirely different to me today. I'm not sure how I've missed this all these years! 

For the first time, it appears that the earthquake that rolled the stone back occurred while Mary Magdalene and Mary were standing there at the tomb. It was not just a low level shaking. I have seen tombs in Israel and the stones that cover them. It would take more than a gentle shake to move those stones. They are enormous, solid rock. 

Here's how it happened. Mary Magdalene and Mary almost certainly remembered that Jesus said He would rise on the third day. Even the priests and Pharisees remembered that He'd said it, so surely his disciples did. Maybe the two women were just brokenhearted and wanted to grieve at the tomb, but maybe they wanted to see for themselves, just in case. I can see this in my mind's eye and it absolutely astounds me. 

Mary Magdalene and Mary rushed up to the tomb, and the stone was still there. Their hearts probably sank for a minute. As is obvious from history, God loves the dramatic, and He threw in a little flare for the first believers on the scene. As the two women are standing there, God sends an "earthquake" that is a real "stone roller" and is really an angel rolling back the stone. The angel becomes visible and sits on the stone. 

The guards are there, as are the women. The guards see that stone rolling and are shocked, but when they look up and see the angel on the stone, they are so frightened that they faint dead away. Remember, the guards are there to prevent this very thing from happening. These are not wimp guards. These are tough Roman soldiers, unconscious on the ground.

The women were probably afraid, because the angel said what angels always say. "Fear not." I know that this is serious business, but this next part always strikes me as funny. The angel looked at the women and said, (this is the Leanna paraphrase, but check its accuracy above) "Jesus is already up and gone. Do you want to take a peek and see?" Women being women, of course they had to take a peek.

Here's what's amazing to me. If I had arrived on the scene and found the stone gone and the tomb empty, I would not have known what to believe. There would have been several explanations that could have fit the scene. Only one explanation fits what these women saw. The stone was there. The guards were there. The tomb was just like it had been when they last saw it, or so it seemed. As they watched, the stone rolled away, and the angel appeared. This was not a Lazarus moment. Jesus was already walking around in the garden. These women had no doubt that Jesus was risen because He was already gone when the stone moved.

When the angel told them Jesus was already on the way to Galilee, they were off like a rocket, heading to find the disciples and let them know. In their fear, and their joy, and their bolstered faith, (and their obedience to what the angel had said) they ran headlong into Jesus. 

Only rolling the stone away with witnesses present would have been enough to convince His disciples that Jesus' body had not been stolen. They had to be sure, and because of the way God orchestrated the events that early Resurrection morning, they were. 

God didn't sacrifice Himself to save us, only to complete the job in such a way that no one could be sure. He did even the last little bit of the job in such a way as to enhance our faith, to confirm our faith. He's in the details, and He made sure of every one.

We have a risen Savior, and we don't have to wonder or doubt. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!